I’m a big fan of the Far Cry series. Vaas from Far Cry 3 is arguably my favorite video-game villain, with Pagan Min a shoo-in for any top-10 list. I’ve spent more hours than I’d care to admit roaming the lands of Far Cry 3 and 4. From slaughtering animals to gather necessary ingredients, to liberating outposts and turning the map a friendly shade of green, I’ve been fully on board with the franchise’s model of open-world shooter. All of my previous experience with the Far Cry series left me feeling quite excited to see what Far Cry Primal had to offer.
Immediately noticeable from the beginning of Far Cry Primal is that it feels like Far Cry 4, and that’s not a compliment. Far Cry Primal feels like an overzealous DLC pack, not a standalone title.
I found it quite difficult to find direction in Primal. Unlike in previous installments of the Far Cry series, there wasn’t any discernible villain, no one person to fight against. Instead, you play as Takkar, a member of the Wenja tribe, fighting for control of Oros, a 10,000BC land, filled with Udam fighters led by Uii (seemingly the game’s antagonist) and beasts that give no hesitation in bringing forth your demise.
Initially, finding missions was a clumsy experience. You have to constantly bring up the map, set a waypoint to a yellow marker and begin your journey. Throughout the game, you triumph over several different characters, which creates an allegiance between you and them. This opens up new missions to play.
Through triumph over the various people, and their inundation into the Wenja tribe, a host of new items, weapons and abilities become available – a feature that is strongly reminiscent of previous Far Cry titles.
If I had written this review within the first five hours of my gameplay, I would be telling you to steer clear of the title, that it was nothing but a glorified DLC pack with a $60 price tag. The more I explored however, the more I wanted to. Not far into the game, you gain the ability to tame beasts and make them your allies, having them follow you into battle and slaughter enemies by your side. Being a fan of the animals, I found myself caring a lot about the state of my Sabre tooth Tiger, healing him when he was injured, and putting progression on hold to revive him.
The more I explored Oros and completed side-quests, the more I enjoyed my time with Primal. As darkness falls, pack creatures become far more vicious, posing a very real threat to your survival. The atmosphere becomes tense, and you can do nothing except tread carefully with your spear ready.
The weapon system in Far Cry Primal limits the player to bows, spears and clubs for most combat, but Ubisoft Montreal has done well to add variation to these and make them enjoyable to use. The bow, for example, is excellent for stealth engagements, taking out most enemies with a single headshot. Close combat against NPCs brings the player’s club swinging, often hitting multiple targets with a single blow. All while spears, arguably the best weapon in the game, allow the player to challenge even the most feared creatures of Oros, both up close and from a distance.
Oros itself is a beautiful land, rife with green mountains and snowy cliffs. The graphics themselves do little to separate the title from Far Cry 4, but are an improvement nonetheless. For a lot of players, the languages in the game will become an inconvenience. With not a word of English spoken by anyone, all cut-scenes are subtitled, which normally wouldn’t phase me. But looking away for more than a second means you miss valuable dialogue and become blissfully unaware of what you’re trying to achieve.
As with any new title, there are glitches here and there. You’re sometimes able to fall down cliff faces without receiving damage. Snakes fall in and out of the map, making them impossible to combat. And animals have a real fear of water, enabling the player to step in a river knee-deep to avoid being attacked.
Overall, I enjoyed my experience with Far Cry Primal, but I sincerely believe that’s because I’m a fan of the series, not this game in particular. The lack of an active antagonist was a massive detriment in my eyes; it left the game lacking that special Far Cry feel. A lot of the time, I was mindlessly achieving things because the game told me to, not because I wanted to complete them.
A good experience if you’re looking for a game to tide you over until your next big release, but unfortunately not worth the $60 price tag associated with a AAA title.